04/03/2021 - 13:30

Family sues over electric shock

04/03/2021 - 13:30

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A Perth girl has launched legal action against the Housing Authority, Western Power, Synergy and engineering consultancy Downer EDI after she received a catastrophic electric shock that left her with severe brain injuries.

Family sues over electric shock
The family has launched legal action in the Supreme Court.

A Perth girl has launched legal action against the Housing Authority, Western Power, Synergy and engineering consultancy Downer EDI after she received a catastrophic electric shock that left her with severe brain injuries.

In a writ filed with the Supreme Court this week, Denishar Lee Woods has claimed damages and costs from the four parties for the alleged negligence that led to the electrical fault, which left her with quadriplegia, severe cognitive impairment, cerebral vision impairment, communication impairment and oropharyngeal dysfunction.

Denishar was living with her mother and five siblings at a Beldon property owned by the Housing Authority when its electrical earthing system failed, becoming live with electricity at up to 230 volts.

According to the writ, Denishar’s mother, Lacey Nicole Harrison, called the Housing Authority’s after-hours emergency line about 8pm on March 3 2018, after the home lost power and both she and two of Denishar’s siblings had received electric shocks attempting to open the metallic cover of the property's switchboard.

After spending nine minutes on hold, she hung up, calling again at 8.34pm and being told that an electrician would be notified and attend. In the meantime, the operator advised Ms Harrison not to touch the property’s switch board.

While awaiting the electrician’s call, Ms Harrison instructed Denishar, then 11 years of age, to turn off the tap in the front yard.

But when her hand made contact with the tap, she received a catastrophic electric shock and was unable to remove her hand, an incident witnessed by her mother and several of her siblings.

Denishar’s lawyer alleged that the plaintiff’s injuries and disabilities arose as a result of a failure caused by the deterioration and malfunctioning of the single-phase aerial service cables’ neutral conductor, which lawyers claim Western Power was responsible for.

The writ states that the family had contacted the Housing Authority 25 times between 2011 and March 2018 regarding issues with the property's electricity, including the smell of electrical burning, light switches and globes that needed to be replaced, occupants receiving electrical shocks from light switches, and the power points tripping out.

The action has been brought against Western Power as the company allegedly responsible for the installation and maintenance of the transmission and distribution system that supplied electricity to the property, while the lawyers allege that Synergy was responsible for monitoring the electricity.

The plaintiff’s lawyer further alleged that it was Downer EDI that carried out the replacement of the aerial service cables in February 2008.

But the writ also makes reference to an ongoing factual dispute between Western Power, Synergy and Downer and the Housing Authority, in which the three parties allege that the cause of Western Power’s neutral conductor becoming ineffective was poor workmanship undertaken on the electric supply to the property, for which the Housing Authority is responsible. 

According to the writ, filed by personal injury law firm Percy Kakulas Gleeson, Denishar is now suing the companies for the alleged negligence that led to the incident and for their alleged failure to meet their obligations and provide a safe environment for the family.

Separate writs were also filed on behalf of Ms Harrison, and Denishar's siblings Anita Rose Woods, Mason Aaron Lee Woods, Jeanette Nellie Elizabeth Woods, and Jerome Robert Michael McLean, who are claiming damages for the psychological and physical injuries sustained when they witnessed and learned of the incident.

An inquiry into the incident by the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety in 2019 concluded that a conductor had failed after prolonged heating, but could not determine why the incident occurred or which party was responsible.

The family accepted a $1 million act-of-grace payment from the state government in 2019.

The property has since been demolished.

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